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Knox Co. Board of Education discusses re-zoning, charter school application

11:28 PM, Dec 3, 2012   |    comments
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This week, the Knox County Board of Education will vote on a proposal that changes where many elementary students will go to school next year. In a work session Monday evening, the Board reviewed a final plan drafted by KCS Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre.

The changes stem from a new elementary school set to open next fall in Southwest Knox County. KCS officials hope the new school, along with new zoning lines will help relieve overcrowding in some areas of the district.

For the past several months, McIntyre has held several meetings with parents and community members to gather input for the rezoning proposal. Using those recommendations, his latest plan includes a grandfathering provision for some students, as well as efforts to ensure a smooth transition for students and their families.

"At the end of the day, we really tried to listen to elementary school parents, teachers and community members," said McIntyre. "We put together what I hope and believe is a common sense proposal for rezoning in the western part of Knox County."

During Monday's work session, board members again questioned McIntyre about how those transitions would be implemented. They will vote Wednesday on that final re-zoning plan during the regular BOE session meeting.

The board also discussed an application to convert Vine Middle Magnet Performing Arts Academy into a charter school.

In October, the Genesis Rock, a local non-profit, submitted an application to convert that school into the "Dream Academy at Vine," which would serve a total of 300 students across the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

According to a state statute and a school board policy, an existing public school can convert into a public charter school through one of two ways: 

  1. Parents of 60 percent of students enrolled or 60 percent of teachers at a school can petition the board of education
  2. The school board decides to convert a school into a charter school.

Dr. McIntyre recommended the board reject that application, saying it lacked sufficient evidence of community engagement to gather parent and staff support.

"If you're going to take over an existing school and convert it to a charter school, I think it's really incumbent upon the applicant to ensure there's been considerable conversation and dialogue and engagement with that school's community," McIntyre said. "And I think in the case of this application, there simply hasn't been.

During their discussion, many Board members agreed, saying they weren't opposed to a new charter school but would like to see more community engagement from an applicant.

"This is a school board that is not opposed to charter schools, this is a school board that is not afraid of charter schools. I think they just want to make sure that if we have a charter school in our community, that it's a good one," McIntyre added.

The board's regular monthly meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m.

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